Riddled with injuries, the Devils are finding themselves not only on a losing streak, but on a scoreless streak. In back-to-back games this weekend, the Devils were shutout by both the Philadelphia Flyers and the Minnesota Wild.
In their 0-1 loss to the Flyers on Saturday, the Devils were without Patrik Elias (upper body), Peter Harrold (elbow) and Travis Zajac (lower body). Defensively, the team played well. Offensively, two of their top scorers absent from the lineup became the team’s own detriment. With Jaromir Jagr being the main focus for the Flyers’ defense, the team needed to rely on finding some sort of offense, even if it came from the blueline.
Eric Gelinas has been in the lineup the last few games. With the team’s captain Bryce Salvador injured, Gelinas has been able to provide a little of offense from the blueline. There is no doubt that he tried to generate some offense on Saturday night. That was clear when he wound up for a slapshot, broke his stick and ended up watching the puck fall right onto the stick of the opposition…there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Thus was the Devils’ luck on Saturday.
After the loss, the team got on a plane and headed to Minnesota to join Cory Schneider, who had already gone on ahead of the team. Schneider was reactivated after being on injured reserve. He started in goal on Sunday against the Wild.
With Harrold’s injury and Anton Volchenkov (lower body) injured, Jon Merrill was called up. This was to be his big NHL debut. Unfortunately, it was short lived. He was injured in the first few minutes of the game and did not return to the game. He left the ice with a facial laceration and a possible concussion after going into the boards.
The Devils lost to the Minnesota Wild, 0-4.
As the injuries keep mounting, the Devils need to rely on offense from unlikely sources. Marek Zidlicky has had many chances to create offense from the blueline. Yet, night after night, he hesitates to shoot the puck. Whether this is a lack of confidence or something else, it never hurts for him to try. Luck could be on his side if he would only try to shoot the puck more. Several times during the contest on Saturday night, he had an opportunity to shoot on net, but he didn’t. You could see it on the television screens and all the way up from the rafters, the way he tries to make the move to shoot the puck, then his shoulders slump with hesitation and then the opportunity is gone.
It is the duty of the coaching staff to make sure their players believe in themselves. If a player is lacking confidence, it is up to the coach to make his players believe in themselves, their teammates and what they are doing there together. Without it, the team crumbles.
Defensive focus from other teams centers heavily on Jagr. Throughout the Flyers game, the defensemen were on Jagr like white on rice. They were literally glued to his backside, preventing him from being an offensive weapon for the Devils. They were able to shut him down as well as the rest of the team. The Devils were only able to generate five shots on goal in the first period, followed by six in the second and three in the final period. Jagr didn’t have a single shot on goal.
The defensemen generated six of the 14 shots on goal.
“We want to get more pressure in,” Stephen Gionta said of the lack of shots on goal. “We didn’t do that tonight, getting on the forecheck and keeping the puck below their goal line and turning them out of their zone. I thought we played pretty good defensively, just not enough to sustain pressure offensively.”
The Devils had five opportunities to generate a goal on the power play in Saturday’s contest. With Zajac and Elias both out, Jagr said they had to change the power play right before the game.
“We had some power plays,” he said. “We had to change it right before the game because we missed two guys, key guys, on the power play.”
He went on to say that there were guys that had never played the power play before that were now on the special team.
“I’m not saying it’s tough,” Jagr said. “It’s not easy.”
He said throughout, they just didn’t play well enough against the Flyers.
The Devils faceoff win percentage was disappointing. While the Flyers won 61% of the faceoffs, the Devils won only 39% of them. Andrei Loktionov was 0-7 (0%).
To put this more into perspective, the Devils lost 61% of the time at the faceoff circle against the Flyers. That was 37 losses out of a possible 61 chances. They only won 24 of them.
“It’s a work in progress,” Martin Brodeur said after the loss to the Flyers on Saturday. “I thought we’ve done a lot of good things in our own zone. We killed a good power play that they had. We’ve always had trouble against their power play. We fared pretty good. We’ve got to take some of the positive.”
As a result of the continuing issues with the team underperforming, the first player to go is Rostislav Olesz. The 28 year old Czech has been trying to make an NHL comeback since his knee was injured twice. He was placed on waivers on Monday. If no one claims him by noon on Tuesday, he will be eligible to join the Albany Devils.
He appeared in 10 games with no goals, two assists and no PIMs.